Overseas PCS Part 1: Express Shipment

Here’s everything you need to know about sending an express shipment during an overseas PCS.

When PCSing overseas, what is an express shipment?

Moving overseas can be a huge, stressful challenge for a military family. The more you know about the process and prepare for it, the more smoothly it will go for you. One important difference of an overseas PCS is that when the military moves you to a foreign country, you are allowed to designate two separate shipments. The biggest shipment will be your Household Goods (HHG), which contains your furniture, TV, books, and other items, up to a weight limit determined by the service member’s rank. Everything will be packed into cargo boxes and sent overseas by ship. The delivery can take months. More about what you should (and shouldn’t) pack in your HHG is listed here.

Because of the long shipping times, service members are permitted an additional smaller shipment called the Express shipment. This one will be flown overseas and can be timed to arrive the same time that you do.

Here's what to pack in your express shipment for an overseas PCS. And what you should save for your main shipment too! #milspouse Click To Tweet

PCS Packing tips for Express shipment

How to prepare an Express shipment for an overseas PCS

The military will reimburse moving expenses, including the moving company, packing supplies, and equipment rentals. You must go through DPS/PPSO at your current station and schedule your packing dates on http://www.move.mil/. They will help you contact a moving company approved through your local base, one that is familiar with military moves. You must first determine:

  • which items to take as luggage on your plane ride,
  • which to send in your Express Shipment (Unaccompanied Baggage),
  • and which to pack up with the rest of your Household Goods (HHG).

The express shipment will be your only personal supplies for your first few weeks in the new country, besides whatever you carry in your luggage on the plane. When you first arrive, you will be placed in temporary housing, so it is important to consider whether you will be in a hotel, or an actual house on base. If it is a hotel, you will not have much room for items besides clothing. If you are in a temporary house, your base may offer free loaner furniture and kitchen supplies to get through through the first month or two until your own furniture arrives. Temporary housing varies at different locations, so do your research or ask your sponsor for more details.

Welcome to Rota book Price: $20.00 This is the book I wrote to help military families PCSing overseas, specifically to Rota, Spain. Disclosure: I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Our express shipment for a PCS to Europe was mostly clothes, uniforms, and bedding. We also included baby gear, a box of toys, and the kitchen supplies in the next picture.

What to pack in the express shipment for an overseas PCS

Recommendations for an express shipment for an overseas PCS:

    • Include clothing, shoes, and jackets for all family members. Consider what temperature changes will occur in the month following your move.
    • Include cooking utensils and supplies. Your temporary housing will include a small kitchen, so packing 1 large pot, 1 frying pan, 1 bowl, 1 baking dish, 1 sharp knife, and a can opener at minimum will allow you to prepare some meals in your room.
    • Include towels, bed sheets, and blankets for each person. You might not need these in a hotel, but you would in other temporary housing. Since they are light weight, it will be better to have them than to buy new right away.
    • Send cleaning supplies like a vacuum, broom, dustpan, and mop.
    • Baby gear like a Pack and Play, high chairs, cribs, swing, strollers, etc. can be included in the express shipment.

  • Depending on the moving company policies, 1 TV can be included in this shipment.
  • Desktop Computer, PlayStation, Xbox etc. can be sent, along with games and accessories.
  • A small selection of toys, movies, or books should be included to entertain the family.
  • Air mattress, area rugs, trash cans, shower curtains, hangers, and a floor lamp will make life in your temporary house more comfortable.
  • Bikes should be included, if you have one, because it will give you a cheap transportation option when you arrive.
  • Send a small set of screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, nails, and scissors so that you can do any minor household jobs before your household good arrive, and so that you don’t have to go through your whole shipment looking for the tools to open the boxes!
  • If you are moving during summer to a coastal base, send your beach chairs, umbrella, towels, and beach toys express so you can go to the beaches as soon as you arrive!
  • Keep in mind that your temporary quarters may be small. Don’t include furniture or excess items.
  • Do NOT include any food, batteries, liquids, or hazardous materials in your shipment.

I sent all these kitchen items express when we moved to Europe. We were a family of five and knew we were moving into an empty house. It worked out well because I was able to cook regular meals right away. I even baked chicken and an apple pie our first weekend there when the new neighbors invited us over for dinner!

What to pack in an express shipment for an overseas PCS

More information about moving overseas can be found in my book Welcome to Rota. Disclosure: I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.


Military spouse, Mom of 4, and a published author. I help the military spouse community by offering encouragement and advice for military life. This is a tough life, but we are all stronger together! Send me your questions, and I will be happy to chat!


  1. We did an overseas move to Izmir, Turkey from DC and our biggest mistake was not maxing out our express shipment and how many bags we checked. I would advocate for checking the max number of bags and sending as much stuff in your express shipment as possible. Having a lot of bags at the airport will be a pain, but it will be worth it to have more clothes for weather changes, more towels and bedding to be comfortable and just more things to have when you first land in a foreign country. When it comes to the express shipment, I would say try and send as many kitchen supplies as possible. Being able to cook foods you like is comforting in a new place and is definitely healthier and cheaper than eating out all of the time. We didn’t get any sort of temporary housing except to stay in a Hilton, but we were in our apartment way before our HHG arrived, so we had to make do with what we had sent in our express shipment. One thing I am glad we sent were two beach chairs. We didn’t have any furniture in our apartment besides the air mattress we sent and the two beach chairs. It was so nice to have something to sit on that had a back to it! I’ve definitely learned from that experience to max out what you send in your express shipment so you can be as comfortable as possible while waiting for your HHG.

    • Thanks Sarah, that is such great advice! Yes, I agree, the more you can send Express the better. Check the weight limits. Military uniforms and “pro gear” do not count towards the limit either. We ended up with a LOT of bags at the airport + 3 children + 3 carseats. It was a little ridiculous. But once we got there it was a relief.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your wisdom for the move to Turkey! 🙂

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